A healthy and delicious alternative to sweet potato casserole, this sweet potato bake with fresh cranberries and apples is tart and sweet. The best sweet potato side dish you need for the holidays has hints of maple and molasses and baked until soft.
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I have lots of favorite side dishes when it comes to the holidays. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes! Growing up, the only version of a sweet potato casserole I had was the kind where everything was from a can and baked with marshmallows on top. Don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff. However, I have this sweet potato bake that I love very much as well, maybe even more than the traditional sweet potato casserole.
This sweet potato bake with fresh cranberries and apples is a thing of beauty. I think it screams everything fall, thanks to sweet potatoes, and is a beautiful dish to present. Let me tell you a story of how this very dish came to be; it would be so rude of me if I were to take all of the credit for this amazing creation!
Sweet Potato Bake with Fresh Cranberries and Apples: My Inspiration
Back when I was a freshman in college, I had a dear roommate that took me home with her and her sister for Thanksgiving, so I could spend the holiday with their family. Her family was so gracious to me and I felt like I was at home during that little break. Their extended family came and they all had this amazing dinner ready.
My roommate’s mom made this amazing sweet potato side dish and I fell in love with it! Her dish had the classic canned yams and some apple pie filling in it and I was instantly hooked!
A few years ago, after my husband and I got married, I was asked to bring a sweet potato dish to my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. It needed to be a somewhat healthy dish because some people were watching their diets. At first, I thought, well dang, nobody likes sweet potatoes and they don’t want the brown sugar and marshmallow sweet potato casserole.
Then I thought back on this amazing dish that my roommate’s mom made a few years back and knew what I would bring.
She was, of course, very flattered that I asked for her recipe and found that it was super simple. The dish I share with you now is a variation of this very dish. You can think of it as slightly like a half and half apple/ sweet potato pie.
What is the Difference Between Sweet Potatoes and Yams
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of the recipe, we need to talk about sweet potatoes and yams. Are they the same or even interchangeable? NOPE!
Americans have gotten into the habit of calling sweet potatoes yams and yams sweet potatoes; however, these two vegetables are completely different!
Sweet potatoes are grown in the Americas and come in a variety of tastes and textures. The sweet potatoes I use in this recipe are called Garnet sweet potatoes. Garnet sweet potatoes have a darker reddish skin and an orange flesh color. Sweet potatoes are from the tuber family, which means they grow off of the roots of the sweet potato plant.
Yams from South America, the Caribbean, and Africa and Asia as well. Yams are also tubers but come from a vine plant. The main difference to sweet potatoes and yams are that yams are much sweeter and contain more moisture than sweet potatoes. Yams are rarely grown in the US. You would have to go to a Latin market or other specialty markets to get yams.
So, the things you see in your local grocery store are sweet potatoes.
How Do You Cook Sweet Potatoes For Thanksgiving
If I had to choose between a classic sweet potato casserole and this sweet potato bake, I would honestly choose this one! I just love the vibrant colors of this side dish and think it brings a nice pop of color to a plate of potentially all brown food.
What really makes this dish stand out to me are the flavors of maple and molasses (from the brown sugar). When I had originally made this dish, I used white sugar. Since being married to my husband for so long, I have come to adopt the thought that if I don’t have to use white sugar in a recipe, brown is much better. Plus, the flavor of maple has some buttery notes to it that really compliments this whole side dish.
I think that you’ll agree this is hands down, the best sweet potato recipe.
Fresh Cranberries in This Sweet Potato Bake Recipe
Fresh cranberries are hard to come by unless it’s November or December (be sure to check out this post all about seasonal produce!). While this recipe calls for fresh cranberries to be used, if you happen to find yourself in a pickle without fresh cranberries, the juices in this dish would reconstitute the cranberries well! I also like to freeze fresh cranberries and use them throughout the year!
Be sure to pick packages of cranberries that have plump and dark red berries. Fresh cranberries are naturally tart on their own but if you happen to get under ripe berries, watch out!
To give your cranberries a bit more love before just tossing them into the sweet potato bake, I like to toss them in the same mixing bowl that held the sweet potatoes and apples. The apples will have started to macerate with the sugar, leaving behind a delicious syrup to toss the fresh cranberries in!
How Long Do You Cook Sweet Potato Slices for Sweet Potato Bake
Since this sweet potato bake is similar to a “casserole,” it’s going to cook for about an hour. To make sure that everything cooks consistently, though, it’s super important to cut both your apples and sweet potatoes the same width, about 1/4”. I liked to have both of my sweet potatoes and apples cut into half-moons just for ease of eating.
I like to leave my sweet potatoes uncovered to allow some of the juices from the apples to evaporate a bit. After this dish has finished cooking, allow it to rest and cool for a few minutes before digging right in. The temptation is going to be tough, but you have to let the juices cool and thicken after being in the oven.
I hope that you enjoy this recipe for the holidays! Be sure to leave a comment (with a rating) down below!
For a full holiday dinner, be sure to check out these posts:
- 18+ Easy and Gourmet Holiday Party Appetizers
- 15+ Main Dishes for a Non-Traditional Holiday Dinner
- 35+ Must-Have Holiday Dessert Recipes
- 20+ Unique and Gourmet Holiday Side Dishes
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- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4" half moons
- 3 medium Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced 1/4" thick
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 tsp maple extract
- 1 ounce corn starch
- 1 pound fresh cranberries
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into half moons. ¼ inch thick. Core and slice apples ¼ inch thick.
- Mix together dry ingredients and, in a large bowl, toss potatoes and apples with the dry ingredients. Add cranberries as well.
- Spray a 9x13 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour potatoes and apples into pan, cover with tin foil. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Remove tin foil and serve.
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Serving Size4 ounces
Amount Per ServingCalories 149Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 47mgCarbohydrates 37gFiber 5gSugar 22gProtein 1g